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Flat Fall Retail Sales Causing Anxiety

The U.S. Commerce Department reported Monday that CE and appliance sales rose 3.6 percent in October compared with last year.

But the mood of top executives I spoke with privately last week at the traditional International CES Press Preview and the industry’s Anti-Defamation League’s awards dinner was not one of celebration. It was one of anxiety.

They seemed to know before the Commerce Department released its report on Monday that October sales, compared with September, were down 1 percent. That’s not the type of performance that breeds confidence when going into the core of the holiday sales season.

Everyone knows Black Friday promos will be more aggressive than ever, and even then, will it have been worth it? Will inventories be clear? Will there be some profits to go along with all the expected volume?

While financials of worldwide manufacturers and chains with general merchandise look better recently, what has got to give CE retailers and manufacturers fits is that the market has not shown major traction all year.

We’ll soon see if all the Black Friday — and Black Thanksgiving — deals that are set will at least create major volume growth for calendar year 2010